It seem everyone wants is a ride on Japan’s new luxury Train Suite Shiki-Shima. Fares on the deluxe 10-car train range between $2,200 and $10,000 but, with the service launching by East Japan Railway (JR East) just days ago, it’s already sold out through to March 2018.
Available for two- to four-day itineraries around eastern Japan, the experience is closer to a boutique hotel on wheels than a routine shlep on a commuter train.
The train is designed by Ken Okuyama, celebrated for his work with Porsche, Ferrari and Maserati. He’s brought that sleek style to two glass-walled observatory cars that bookend the train, offering uninterrupted views of eastern Japan’s forests, fields and coastline.
The lounge has its own piano bar and, to aid relaxation even more, walls and windows have been designed to evoke “a quiet forest.” Shiki Shima even has its own signature tune, “Train Suite.”
The dining car menu is devised by Michelin-starred chef Katsuhiro Nakamura and changes to reflect the ingredients and culinary style of the regions through which the train is passing.
And then, of course, there are the 17 private suites. The most luxurious – split-level, with two beds, a living room and a bath tub – are more capacious than a lot of Tokyo apartments.
All, JR East says on its website, combine “traditional Japanese aesthetics with a futuristic spirit.”
As befits a price tag that starts at 500,000 yen for a double-occupany suite ($4,451), boarding the train is pretty magical too. A new Harry Potter-style Platform 13 1/2 has been built at Tokyo’s Ueno Station for Train Suite Shiki-Shima’s exclusive use – although this seems to be the only time JR East has done things by halves with its new luxury service.
Because of the popularity of the new service, those who want a ticket to ride need to fill out an application rather than simply purchase a fare. The lucky few are then selected by lottery.
NHK World reports that only one out of every 76 applicants was able to get a place on the train’s first trip in May 2017.